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Take a train to Churchill and enjoy slow travel in northern Manitoba

We like to travel slow. Whenever possible we prefer to drive instead of fly. Mainly because it’s cheaper, but also because it’s a lot easier to pull over and take a photo in a car than in an airplane. We enjoy discovering new roads, new camp sites, and new places to eat along the way. And, as an environmental bonus, driving produces less CO2 per person than a flight of the same distance.

Moving slowly across the Northern Manitoba wilderness
Moving slowly across the Northern Manitoba wilderness

However, on this particular leg of our journey, driving was not an option. That’s because there are no roads leading to Churchill, Manitoba. Our choices were either fly to Churchill or take the train to Churchill. This time we opted to hit the tracks.

What would normally have been a 5 hour drive was actually going to take us 15 hours by train. I was really looking forward to the ride. I wanted to enjoy the views and see how the landscape changed as we traveled north. I wanted to see Northern Manitoba and not just fly over it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

While in Thompson many people warned us about the speed of the train, “Oh, you’re taking the train to Churchill. The slowest train in the world!”. But locals aren’t complaining or putting it down, they’re embracing it. You can even get your own Slowest Train in the World postcard in Thompson. It features a butterfly racing the train, and winning.

Taking the Train to Churchill

We didn’t really want to leave our car untended at the train station for a week so we parked it at McCreedy Campground where (for a small daily fee of $8) the owners will keep it and give you a lift to and from the train station. Not a bad deal. (To contact McCreedy Campground, phone 204-679-6315 or email

Train in Thompson station
Taking the train in Thompson

Our train pulled out of Thompson at 5:30pm. We each had our own individual sleeper cabin which we were pretty excited about. Each had a seat, a bed, a sink and a toilet. (Your own toilet for the ride!) There was also a shower toward the front of the sleeper car (towels and soap are provided). The restaurant car is in the middle of the train where you can get coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, and even dinner and breakfast. This was going to be fun.

We were told by one of the passengers that the meals were boring TV dinners. “Bleah!”, she said over and over. “They used to have a cook on board but not anymore. Now it’s just microwave food. Bleah!” Thankfully we had brought our own bread and cheese.

For the first hour or so, Hal ran around both of our cabins and the train like a five-year old. He was full of excitement and was exploring every single thing in the cabins. He looked in every nook and pushed every button.

Sleeper car
Sleeper car

Then he finally settled down and we sat together in my cabin and watched northern Manitoba pass by. We crossed bridges, lakes, and many miles of forest. We stopped at a couple of little settlements where we were allowed to get out for a couple of minutes. I wondered how life must be up here in the winter. There are no official roads north of Thompson and the ski doo is the vehicle of choice when the snow takes over. I always fantasized about living a whole winter in a remote place like this.

View from the train
View from the train

After dinner, we decided to treat ourselves to a $6 carton of what was labeled as Spanish wine,  but I’m pretty sure it was just the liquid they used to clean out the barrels. Classy stuff. But it successfully put me to sleep.

Drinking fine wine on the train
Drinking fine wine on the train

We crammed into the bed in one of our single compartments and watched the forest pass by in the night. It was OK for the first hour, then I got a cramp in my leg and Hal got one in his arm, so we decided to retire to our own cabins.

I didn’t even remember to look up and see if the northern lights had made an appearance…

“Ding, ding, dinnng…”, the cheerful attendant sang through the speakers, “Goooood morning! We’ll be arriving in Churchill in just over an hour. We have fresh coffee and egg muffins. Come and get ’em!”

By then the change in the landscape was striking. I sat on my bed and realized that the boreal forest was slowly transforming into Canadian tundra before my eyes.

“Did you see the caribou this morning? On the right side of the train?” one of the attendants asked a passenger. Nope, nobody saw the caribou. “No? What were you doing? Sleeping on the train?”

We looked at each other with excitement. Wildlife!

Then suddenly, we were in Churchill. Polar bears and beluga whales here we come!

Welcome to Churchill!
Welcome to Churchill!

 Disclosure: Via Rail provided our train tickets for us, but the opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.

Cristina Garcia

Zoologist and wildlife photographer. She has worked in the field with jackals, wolves, cheetahs, & leopards. She serves on the Board of Directors of SEE Turtles, a non-profit sea turtle conservation organization.

Read her posts at Travel For Wildlife and see more of her work at Truly Wild, & Our Wild Yard.

Friday 30th of March 2018

Let's hope they get it all fixed and running again soon!


Tuesday 13th of March 2018

Hi Did you see auroras lights?

cristina garcia

Monday 19th of March 2018

yes! we did see them from the train :)

Jim O'Donnell

Monday 12th of August 2013

Funny. I never imagined Cristina to be so quiet....


Glad you guys are having fun!

Cristina Garcia

Tuesday 13th of August 2013

haha well, I can be quiet sometimes.

Mary @ Green Global Travel

Saturday 10th of August 2013

Fun article and adventure! I love that you so thoughtfully included the detail about the difference in the carbon footprint of. car vs. plane and can't help but wonder how trains fit into the mix. It looked as though you were having an extraordinary time on the train and I hope that the feeling has continued as you go in search of polar bears and beluga whales!

Cristina Garcia

Thursday 15th of August 2013

Well, it is either plane and train and since train is so slow...Plus it is so much more fun on the train!